Think of Mary Shelley’s timeless parable of a modern Prometheus – whose theft of heavenly fire comes back to haunt him in ways he never imagined – writ large in America’s airports today. In the original story, a hubristic Victor Frankenstein re-animates a body he pieced together from fresh corpses – only to abandon his creation and then watch helplessly as the Creature wreaks a terrible vengeance upon his creator and those dear to him. Nowhere does this plot line resonate more powerfully than in the TSA security check points that are now a routine fixture in every major airport in the United States today. One can only hope that somewhere at some point in time, the man who created the TSA has suffered the indignity of having his junk fondled.
The folks at Human Events appear to share that sentiment (h/t to Kurt for the link):
“The whole program has been hijacked by bureaucrats,” said Rep. John Mica (R.-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
“It mushroomed into an army,” Mica said. “It’s gone from a couple-billion-dollar enterprise to close to $9 billion.”
As for keeping the American public safe, Mica says, “They’ve failed to actually detect any threat in 10 years.”
“Everything they have done has been reactive. They take shoes off because of [shoe-bomber] Richard Reid, passengers are patted down because of the diaper bomber, and you can’t pack liquids because the British uncovered a plot using liquids,” Mica said.
“It’s an agency that is always one step out of step,” Mica said.
It cost $1 billion just to train workers, which now number more than 62,000, and “they actually trained more workers than they have on the job,” Mica said.
“The whole thing is a complete fiasco,” Mica said.
Pretty much sums things up and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight.
In a wide-ranging interview with HUMAN EVENTS just days before the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Mica said screeners should be privatized and the agency dismantled.
Instead, the agency should number no more than 5,000, and carry out his original intent, which was to monitor terrorist threats and collect intelligence.
The fledgling agency was quickly engulfed in its first scandal in 2002 as it rushed to hire 30,000 screeners, and the $104 million awarded to the company to contract workers quickly escalated to more than $740 million.
Federal investigators tracked those cost overruns to recruiting sessions held at swank hotels and resorts in St. Croix, the Virgin Islands, Florida and the Wyndham Peaks Resort and Golden Door Spa in Telluride, Colo.
Charges in the hundreds of thousands of dollars were made for cash withdrawals, valet parking and beverages, plus a $5.4 million salary for one executive for nine months of work.
Other over-the-top expenditures included nearly $2,000 for 20 gallons of Starbucks Coffee, $8,000 for elevator operators at a Manhattan hotel, and $1,500 to rent more than a dozen extension cords for the Colorado recruiting fair.
The agency inadvertently caused security gaps by failing for years to keep track of lost uniforms and passes that lead to restricted areas of airports.
Screeners have also been accused of committing crimes, from smuggling drugs to stealing valuables from passengers’ luggage. In 2004, several screeners were arrested and charged with stealing jewelry, computers and cameras, cash, credit cards and other valuables. One of their more notable victims was actress Shirley McClain, who was robbed of jewelry and crystals.
One of the screeners confessed that he was trying to steal enough to sell the items and buy a big-screen television.
In 2006, screeners at Los Angeles and Chicago O’Hare airports failed to find more than 60% of fake explosives during checkpoint security tests.
The sometimes rudder-less agency has gone through five administrators in the past decade, and it took longer than a year for President Obama to put his one man in place. Mica’s bill also blocked collective bargaining rights for screeners, but the Obama administration managed to reverse that provision.
In effect, the TSA – which ostensibly bears the awesome responsibility for ensuring that another 911 or some variant of it never happens by way of an airliner – has become, like so many other federal agencies, yet another dumping ground for those who are otherwise only marginally employable in the private sector.
Asked whether the agency should be privatized, Mica answered with a qualified yes.
“They need to get out of the screening business and back into security. Most of the screening they do should be abandoned,” Mica said. “I just don’t have a lot of faith at this point,” Mica said.
Allowing airports to privatize screening was a key element of Mica’s legislation and a report released by the committee in June determined that privatizing those efforts would result in a 40% savings for taxpayers.
“We have thousands of workers trying to do their job. My concern is the bureaucracy we built,” Mica said.
“We are one of the only countries still using this model of security,” Mica said, “other than Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, and I think, Libya.”
Victor Frankenstein, behold the fruit of your labor and weep.